Skip to Main Content

Presidential Faculty & Staff Awards (2014)

Marie desJardins | Robert L. Rubinstein | Kevin D. Joseph | Susan Augsburger Velli | Jeff Leips
Justine Marie Johnson | Jane Gethmann

Presidential Teaching Award

desjardinsMarie desJardins
Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Presidential Teaching Award, 2014-2017
Marie DesJardins joined the UMBC faculty in 2001. Named one of UMBC’s 10 “Professors Not to Miss” in 2011, she is known on campus and throughout her professional community for her research in artificial intelligence and her dedication to innovative classroom teaching and student mentoring.desJardins has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on over $6 million of external research funding, and received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence/Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence Doctoral Consortium for the past 14 years, she has worked with over 50 undergraduate researchers and four high school student interns. desJardins was awarded the 2014 National Center for Women and Information Technology Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award in recognition of her commitment to undergraduate research.She is an inaugural Hrabowski Innovation Fellow, and, with that award, is helping to create the ACTIVE Center, a new classroom that supports pedagogical approaches that increase student engagement and active problem solving. In 2010, desJardins was invited to be a distinguished lecturer by the Computer Research Association Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research. She has taught 13 different courses during her tenure at UMBC, eight of which she created or completely redesigned, and mentored 10 Ph.D. students and 22 M.S. students.

Committed to improving the quality and rigor of computer science courses at the high school level, desJardins received multiple NSF awards to support her efforts in this area. She also is a founding member and the university liaison of the Maryland chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.

desJardins earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

back to top

Presidential Research Award

rubinsteinRobert L. Rubinstein
Professor, Sociology
and Anthropology
Director, Center for
Aging Studies
Presidential Research Award, 2014-2017
Robert L. Rubinstein joined the UMBC faculty in 1997. A cultural anthropologist who is one of the top researchers in his field both nationally and internationally, his work is providing significant insight on the lives and experiences of older Americans, particularly in the areas of environment and aging, childlessness in later life, and long-term care.During his tenure at UMBC, Rubinstein has been the principal investigator of eight National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Aging (NIH-NIA) studies, totaling over $15 million. He served as co-principal investigator on three other large NIH-NIA studies granted to investigators associated with the nationally recognized Center for Aging Studies, which he directs. The Center is the recipient of over $7 million in current grant funding from the NIA, and he is the driving force behind proposal development and research portfolio development. With colleagues at the Center, he has made significant contributions to research on residential housing and care of the elderly. He was given a MERIT award, a prestigious award given by NIH to only a handful of investigators, after the fourth year of his project “Bereavement in Long-Term Care,” an NIA supported $3.7 million study from 1996 to 2005. Rubinstein is the author of seven books, 52 peer-reviewed articles (with five currently under review), and 38 book chapters. He also has been a sought-after reviewer for the NIH.Rubinstein is known as a consistent, engaged, and active teacher and mentor, offering a range of courses to undergraduate and graduate students. He has served on numerous departmental committees and as library liaison, and served twice on the University Faculty Review and once on the Faculty Affairs Committees.

Rubinstein earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.

back to top

Presidential Distinguished Staff Award

josephKevin D. Joseph
Assistant Director, Summer, Business Systems Group, Division
of Information Technology
Presidential Distinguished Staff Award, Professional Staff, 2014-2015
Kevin D. Joseph ’87,computer science and information systems, began his tenure in the Division of Information Technology over 27 years ago, when he first served as a student worker and then full-time developer. Throughout his time at UMBC, Joseph has been known for his leadership, congeniality, and caring nature, while his initiatives help make UMBC the model of a technology campus for enterprise solutions. In his current role as Assistant Director, he regularly interacts with staff and administrators across the campus, successfully communicating technically complex details in ways that everyone can understand.Joseph launched and currently leads the data warehouse (REX) team and the document imaging (ImageNow) development team. REX’s success also is due to the successful partnership he established with the Office of Institutional Research. He is now focused on expanding ImageNow into an electronic forms management system and including more financial data in REX.His dedication to finding the most efficient solutions for users also helped the campus move from an in-person registration, grade lookup, and class schedule system, to the Student Telephone and Registration System (STARS), and eventually to the web-based Electronic Access to Student Information (EASI).

Known nationally for his leadership in data warehousing for higher education, his work was crucial to the successful outcomes of projects such as PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and Blackboard Analytics for Learn. He also spearheaded the use of electronic document management to promote efficiencies in Graduate and Undergraduate Admissions, Transfer Credit, and Accounts Payable.

Joseph currently serves the campus as a Professional Staff Senate senator, and has led New Book Experience sessions, taught an Introduction to an Honors University class, and worked with the Maryland Charity Campaign.

back to top


velliSusan Augsburger Velli
Business Services Specialist, Department
of Music
Presidential Distinguished Staff Award, Non-Exempt Staff, 2014-2015
Susan Augsburger Velli ’88, visual and performing arts/graphic design, who joined the UMBC Department of Music staff in 2000, has served the University System of Maryland since 1991.Velli’s colleagues see her as the hub of a fast-paced department offering traditional classroom education, private instruction, and over 100 public and outreach events each year. Her professionalism and management and organizational skills are an asset to the department and its people.She is known for her versatility and ability to manage a diverse group of tasks requiring an equally diverse set of skills. She is the budget manager for multiple accounts and supervises all financial processes, and is the payroll preparer and scheduler of department spaces for internal and external events. Velli also is liaison for other departments and offices across campus. She manages the department’s website and blog, and designs publications and artwork for advertising and other media. At the same time, she is required to keep the department compliant with a variety of university-wide requirements, implement departmental policies, and respond to the variety of needs of approximately 50 faculty and staff, and 150 music majors and 50 music minors. She manages two full-time staff and four work study students.

Velli also was a co-chair of the UMBC President’s Commission for Women for marketing and web design for two years.

She earned her M.A. in Publications Design from the University of Baltimore.

back to top

Board of Regents’ Faculty Award

leipsJeff Leips
Associate Professor,
Biological Sciences
USM Board of Regents’ Faculty Award, 2014
Jeff Leips, who joined the faculty in 2001, is making groundbreaking contributions to interdisciplinary undergraduate education in the life sciences. He was recognized for this effort with a National Academies Education Fellow award in 2004 and UMBC’s Carl Weber Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching in 2010.Leips implemented major changes in undergraduate biological sciences education at UMBC, focused on improving students’ quantitative reasoning skills, especially applied to biological problems. With funding from the NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Leips worked with faculty and students to develop over 20 active learning modules and assessment tools for introductory biological sciences courses. In each module, students work in groups to solve significant biological problems requiring quantitative approaches. Assessment of these modules by an outside firm indicates that undergraduates taking these courses exhibit a significant improvement in their quantitative skills in biological contexts.He is co-director of an NSF-funded project to establish Interdisciplinary Training for Undergraduates in Biological and Mathematical Sciences at UMBC (UBM@UMBC). This program provides a two-year research experience for pairs of students (from mathematics/statistics and biological sciences) working with a pair of faculty (one each from mathematics/statistics and biological sciences).

Leips also worked with faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics to incorporate more biological applications into existing mathematics courses, and establish two new minors, one in Biomathematics (overseen by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics) and one in Quantitative Biology (overseen by the Department of Biological Sciences). This major overhaul to improve students’ quantitative skills through changes in the classroom, new research opportunities, new courses, and new minors should all have a significant and far reaching positive influence not only on UMBC’s students, but on the faculty and institution itself.

Leips received his Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Florida State University.

back to top


Jakubik Family Endowment Staff Award

johnsonJustine Marie Johnson
Associate Director,
Meyerhoff Graduate
Fellows Program
Jakubik Family Endowment Staff Award, 2013-2014
Justine Marie Johnson began her UMBC career in 1999 in the undergraduate Meyerhoff Scholars Program. For the past 10 years, Johnson has worked with the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program, and her efforts have helped establish UMBC as a national model for doctoral STEM diversity. Under Johnson’s leadership and mentoring, the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program has undergone tremendous growth and expansion. In 2004, the program supported a total of 31 Ph.D. students and the retention rate was 74%. It now includes 77 participants, with a retention rate of 92% over the past five years and 80% overall, far exceeding the national rate of 40%.Johnson devised and manages the summer bridge program for incoming Graduate Fellows, and also directs the Summer Biomedical Training Program, which supports research experiences for undergraduates who are interested in pursuing doctoral degrees in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. When funding for outreach efforts was cut, Johnson was instrumental in raising extramural funding to continue the program.As an administrator of the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program, Johnson took the lead on writing the last two successfully funded competitive renewals, with the most recent submission receiving a priority score of 13 (a score of 10 is considered perfect) and receiving $3.3 million in January 2013.

In addition to being highly regarded by her peers and the faculty at UMBC, Johnson gained a national reputation for her leadership skills and activities. She now serves as a regular member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Study Section that evaluates proposed diversity activities in National Human Genetics Research Institute centers, and she serves on the diversity advisory boards of several academic institutions.

back to top

Karen L. Wensch Endowment Award for Outstanding Non-Exempt Staff

gethmannJane Gethmann
Assistant to the Chair, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Karen L Wensch Endowment Award for Outstanding Non-Exempt Staff, 2013-2014
Jane Gethmann first came to UMBC in 1971, and over the years has worked in Financial Aid, the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Graduate School. She joined the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in 1997, and is known as the glue that holds the department together, going above and beyond her responsibilities.In addition to assisting the chair and handling administrative and financial duties, Gethmann also takes the lead when additional resources are needed or when she sees a way to increase efficiency in the department. She has served as facilities manager and scheduling coordinator, managed the Computer Science Help Center, coordinated part-time faculty hiring, and created a graduate admissions database. She also managed the installation of a new teaching laboratory, working with faculty and Facilities Management in order to get it up and running by the start of the semester.A leader and trusted advisor, Gethmann’s vast knowledge of UMBC and departmental procedures as well as her excellent judgment make her invaluable to those she serves. She is a dedicated people person with a helpful and positive attitude. Whether working with faculty, staff, students, or visitors, her goal is to help people solve whatever problem they are facing, and ensure that they have what they need.

back to top